Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Students For Sensible Drug Policy logo
Founded 1998
Founders Shea Gunther, Kris Krane, Shawn Heller, Kris Lotlikar
Type Nonprofit
Focus Drug Policy, War on Drugs, Marijuana Legalization, Drug Testing
Area served
United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Central and South America, Africa, Australia
Key people
Betty Aldworth, Anastacia Cosner, Frances Fu, Scott Cecil, Jake Agliata, Lauren Padgett, Kris Krane, Troy Dayton, Kris Lotlikar, Lauren Mendelsohn, Jesse Stout

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is an international non-profit advocacy and education organization based in Washington D.C. SSDP is focused on reforming drug policy in the United States and internationally. SSDP is the only international network of students dedicated to ending the war on drugs. At its heart, SSDP is a grassroots organization, led by a student-run Board of Directors. SSDP creates change by bringing young people together and creating safe spaces for students of all political and ideological stripes to have honest conversations about drugs and drug policy. Founded in 1998, SSDP comprises thousands of members at hundreds of campuses in countries around the globe.

SSDP neither condones nor condemns drug use, rather the organization respects the right of individuals to make decisions about their own health and well-being. SSDP encourages honest conversation about the realities of the drug war. SSDP promotes youth civic engagement as a critical tool in reforming drug policy. SSDP respects the diverse experiences and identities of our constituents.


In the fall of 1996, members of the Student Drug Reform Movement (SDRM) begin to chat over the internet using a Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet) discussion page. In 1997, the Rochester Cannabis Coalition (RCC) at the Rochester Institute of Technology applied to become the first official student organization dedicated to fighting the War on Drugs; RIT denied RCC’s application and ultimately expelled the lead organizer, Shea Gunther, who would go on to become an SSDP founder. In winter 1998, SDRM members at University of Massachusetts-Amherst hosted a conference for about 50 students, many of whom would go on to join Shea in founding SSDP.

That conference led to the First National Gathering in Washington, DC the following year, where attendees decided to collectively to form SSDP into a national organization and elect a board of directors composed of one representative from each of the five schools that had chapters operating under the SSDP name (Hampshire College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, George Washington University, American University, and Rochester Institute of Technology). SSDP undertook a series of actions and events which contributed to partial repeal of the Higher Education Act Aid Elimination Penalty (HEAAEP).


January 2000 – First National Action. At and around the College Convention 2000 in New Hampshire, SSDP students protested the HEAAEP.

Spring 2000 –First Loan Replacement Program. Hampshire College instituted the first HEAAEP loan replacement program and its president was the first to come out against the HEAAEP.

March 3, 2001 – Legislation to Repeal. A coalition of U.S. House Democrats introduced legislation that would repeal a moratorium on federal financial aid to college students with drug convictions, citing denial of aid for 8,162 students that school year.

March 15, 2001 – “Students VS. the Drug War.” An article featuring SSDP appeared in Rolling Stone.[1] HEAAEP victim Marisa Garcia ’00 was profiled and the article marked SSDP’s big break into public awareness.

Spring 2001 – Colleges Urge Change. Five Oregon colleges passed resolutions urging changes to the HEAAEP. Thirteen leading education associations representing admissions officers, community and state colleges, financial aid administrators and student groups sent a strongly worded letter outlining flaws in the HEAAEP to the head of the DEA.

February 2002 – Souder Confronted About HEAAEP. Members of SSDP attended an event to get long-awaited answers from Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) about the HEAAEP legislation he authored.

2006 – Partial Repeal of the HEA. Congress, responding to pressure from SSDP and other advocates, scaled back the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, taking away its “reachback effect” so that it would only affect students convicted for offenses that occur while they are enrolled in college and receiving aid.

SSDP has expanded from a single chapter in upstate New York created by a handful of students to a network of over 300 chapters worldwide.


Students for Sensible Drug Policy is governed by a Board of Directors and a Board of Trustees, a designated body of the Board of Directors. The board of directors represents SSDP’s chapters at the national level. At least two thirds of the members of SSDP’s Board of Directors are students elected by SSDP’s chapters each year during the organization's national Congress. Lauren Mendelsohn, University of California Irvine Law School, is the current Chair.

Members of the Board of Trustees are selected for their ability to bring expertise, experience, and resources to the organization.

Main Issues

911 Good Samaritan Policies

A campus Good Samaritan Policy or medical amnesty policy is a policy designed to prevent students from hesitating to call for medical assistance in the event of a medical emergency related to alcohol or other drugs.

Just Say Know

Just Say Know,[2] is a peer-to-peer drug education program, provides evidence-based drug information on campus, teaches students to recognize and address dangerous behaviors and attitudes, empowers them to reduce drug-related harm within their communities, and fosters analysis of the relationship between drug policy and drug use. Just Say Know provides a platform from which we create the values future generations will hold about drug policy and drug use culture as we move forward, valuing education over incarceration.

Global Drug Policy

SSDP participates in significant meetings on drug policy such as the annual Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and the 2016 Special Session[3] of the UN General Assembly on the World Drug Problem. The organization also coordinates youth participation in global campaigns such as Support. Don’t Punish and International Overdose Awareness Day.

Marijuana Policy Reform

SSDP chapters provide the ground forces and the teams of volunteers for many large state and federal campaigns.[4]

Students and chapters work on state and local marijuana policy reform by supporting legislation and ballot initiatives for decriminalization, medical marijuana, taxation and regulation, and lowest priority policies.

Pell Grants for Incarcerated Students

Students for Sensible Drug Policy partners with the College and Community Fellowship[5] and The Fortune Society[6] as part of the Education from the Inside Out Coalition[7] to help remove barriers to higher education funding facing students in prison.

Harm Reduction Advocacy

Harm Reduction is the act of mitigating the negative consequences associated with drug use. SSDP provides tools for its members to advocate for the implementation of harm reduction measures, as well as to engage in direct service work.[8]

Psychedelic Legalization

SSDP provides resources for its members to advocate for legalization of psychedelics.[9]

Student Drug Testing

SSDP opposes student drug testing.[10]

Campus Chapters

SSDP is made up of students and community members organized on college and high school campuses across the world. In 2015-2016, SSDP chapters were on 320 campuses, included 4312 student activists and engaged in 135 drug policy initiatives.[11] Across the United States, there are eight regional divisions: Heartland, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest.


More than 25 international chapters in 14 different countries across 5 continents engage in reform at community, national, and regional levels; represent the voices of youth from their countries at the United Nations; and share their experiences fighting the drug war with their fellow SSDPers all over the world.

The SSDP international chapter network has doubled in size and international chapters.

Alumni Association

The SSDP Alumni Association[12] is composed of individuals who determine their own activities and levels of involvement. Individuals are organized geographically into regional SSDP Alumni Associations based on where they currently reside. However, individuals may of course participate in other regional networks by joining additional regional SSDP Facebook groups (ex: if the region you attended school is different from where you currently live).

For each region, leadership boards consisting of a President, Vice President and Secretary will be responsible for coordinating alumni activities and involvement. During the pilot phase (2015), leadership board members have been appointed by staff. Leadership boards are elected in each region annually.

These boards are also responsible for managing the mentoring program by matching mentors and mentees, as well as training mentors on appropriate and effective mentorship.

DARE Committee

The Diversity, Awareness, Reflection, and Education committee (DARE) publishes a Monthly Mosaic to highlight the intersection between drug war, communities, and a broad range of issues.

See also


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